Understanding why employees feel resistant to open innovation will help you create an effective strategy for overcoming internal pushback. 


Due to its complexity, you might find some pushback from collaborators when it comes to introducing open innovation in your corporation. There will be collaborators, who are uncomfortable with the notion of opening up your organization’s process. 

Understanding why employees feel resistant to open innovation will help you create an effective strategy for overcoming internal pushback. Preparing for this internal resistance to open innovation will be key to the success of your new strategy.

The Non-Open-Innovators: Afraid, Threatened, and Skeptical of Open Innovation

Not everyone in your corporation will catch the open innovation bug. Many employees are afraid of the unknown. Anxiety towards change can lead them to resist open innovation. 

Other employees will be threatened by the change in method and procedure. Perhaps, they feel they might be left out if a new innovation process is implemented. 

This is especially true for R&D and innovation teams, these teams are the ones most sensitive to changes in the innovation process (e.i. innovation is their sole job function, having more employes involved could make them feel threatened).

Others will be skeptical of the open innovation process itself. In most cases, skeptical collaborators aren’t comfortable with sharing their ideas, testing them outside their teams, or are concerned with privacy.

Internal Communication: If You Communicate About Open Innovation Enough, it Will Become the Norm

A powerful tool for overcoming internal resistance to open innovation is your internal communication channels. Regardless if it’s your intranet, employee newsletter, or bulletin board, you should use all your channels to communicate your message. 

The reason why you want to implement open innovation needs to be disseminated throughout your corporation. Only when employees understand why your corporation have decided to implement a new process, will they be more willing to follow you.

The key is to continuously communicate about open innovation. Frequent communication will result in it becoming the norm. Your employees will slowly start becoming more at ease with the idea of open innovation.

Inspire Open Innovation: Use Open Innovation Events and Workshops to Excite

Companies should host Open Innovation Days to showcase their progress in innovation, demonstrate that it works, and inspire teams. Focus on highlighting innovation projects from cross-functional teams, as well as, from external partnerships. 

Workshops have similar results, they encourage creativity, reduce uncertainty, and most importantly, workshops improve the skills of collaborators. Use workshops to build confidence. If you prepare and give your teams the right training and tools, your chances of inciting open innovation increases.

Break Down Organizational Resistance: Innovation is the Responsibility of All

In large corporations, roles are well defined and teams usually tend to stick to their own expertise and functions. This leads to innovation being the responsibility of just R&D or innovation teams. 

However, for open innovation to be truly successful, you must break down organizational resistance. The myth that innovation is only the responsibility of certain departments needs to be upended. The more diverse your innovation teams are the better results you will achieve.

Focus on relaying the message that innovation is the responsibility of all departments. This will help you break down barriers between departments.

Influence Open Innovation: Use Ambassadors to Encourage Open Innovation

Your collaborators are influenced by their peers. Identify ambassadors in your organization and use them to encourage skeptical collaborators. A few key ambassadors in each department will help motivate and spread the message of why open innovation is key to your company’s success. 

These ambassadors can set an important example, and will encourage others to be more willing to adopt new ways of innovating. Help your ambassadors by providing adequate training and education so you maximize their efforts.

Institutionalize Open Innovation: Make It Part of Your Corporate DNA

By making open innovation a central focus in your overall strategy and organizational structure, you not only send out a clear message to your employes that open innovation is important, but you also make it easier for them to participate. 

Facilitating the creation of cross-functional teams, as well as, making it easy for your corporation to work with external partners are two easy ways to begin institutionalizing innovation.

Help Non-Innovators Reduce Their Uneasiness to New Forms of Innovation

By tackling the areas in which your employees feel less at ease, you increase the chances of collaborators who are skeptical in joining the open innovation process. First, start by identifying the main factors for resistance and then plan a strategy to tackle each one.

Implementing a multi-faceted approach will lead to better and faster results. 

Just like in any transition phase, you might have to assure your employees that open innovation is the right innovation strategy for your corporation.